Nobody intends to waste food but there are many different reasons why we waste more than we need to. This carries a high environmental impact. Food production is responsible for about a quarter of global emissions and the food that we waste (both at home and along food supply chains) accounts for 6% of global emissions. By way of comparison, the cement industry, accounts for 3% of global emissions.
Wasting food is also a waste of money and diverts food away from people who need it. The average family with children in the UK spends £730 a year on food that is wasted, and collectively we throw away 15 billion meals a year, enough to feed the entire UK population for 11 weeks. Taking some time to figure out how you can reduce your food waste is a great way to significantly reduce your carbon footprint, save money and feel less guilty about wasting food!
Identify why/when you are wasting food
According to a survey by WRAP we are more likely to waste food when we are: are time-pressed; eat many takeaways; are less confident at cooking and food management; follow a restrictive diet either voluntarily or due to intolerances; and when we subscribe to fruit/veg/meal kit boxes.
The first step to reducing your food waste is to figure out what’s causing it. Are particular days busy? Are you being to ambitious with what you’re going to cook? Is it difficult to co-ordinate with others in your household? There is no one size fits all solution to food waste but there are some useful tips on the rest of this page that you can tailor to make them work for you. You can track your food waste (including how much it’s costing you) and get reminders for what you need to use up with the Kitche app.
Check your fridge and cupboards, plan your meals and make a list before you shop. Avoid shopping hungry and buy only what you need – cut-price or two-for-one deals often end up in the bin! Shop little and often if you can to avoid wastage and keep food fresh. Have a shared shopping list (e.g. Google Keep) with people you eat/cook with.
- Put food in the fridge or freezer as soon as you get it home and make sure that your fridge is at 0-5°C. This will mean that milk (which is often wasted and has a high environmental impact) lasts longer
- Store new items at the back of the fridge or freezer to ensure older items are used first.
- Use airtight containers (e.g. takeaway tubs) to keep food at it’s best. You can bring these along with you if you shop for meat/fish from a counter in the supermarket or from a butcher/fishmonger.
- See tips for how to store things to keep them fresher for longer (apples will last 102 days if stored in the fridge)
Know your labels
- ‘Use by’ dates are for food safety. Food can be eaten up to the end of this date but not after, even if it looks and smells fine. Always follow the storage instructions on the packaging.
- ‘Best before’ dates refer to quality rather than food safety. Foods with a ’best before’ date should be safe to eat after the ’best before’ date, but they may no longer be at their best.
- Ignore ‘display until’ and ‘sell by’ dates – these are for shop staff to manage stock rotation.
- To extend the life of food, freeze it before the ’use by’ date. After defrosting, use it within 24 hours.
Get creative with leftovers
Check for recipes to make your food go further from Love food, hate waste and A girl called Jack, and batch cooking advice from The Batch Lady. Common tricks for reducing waste include:
- Rescue leftover toast as breadcrumbs for fishcakes and stale bread for puddings, croutons or crostini
- Throw vegetable trimmings into soups and stock
- Use squidgy fruit in smoothies, juices, sauces and ice creams
- Turn excess produce into chutneys, pickles, jams, compotes and sauces
- Roast veg which is past its best for all sorts of delicious dishes
- Use surplus milk and cream in smoothies, sauces and ice cream
- Turn sad-looking herbs, lettuce or greens into zingy pesto or freeze them for future
Donate surplus food
You can find a local community food project to share your surplus food with via the Cambridge Sustainable Food website or try a sharing app like Olio.
- Free list apps for shared shopping lists with other members of your household e.g Google Keep
- Recipes to make your food go further from Love food, hate waste and A girl called Jack, and batch cooking advice from The Batch Lady
- Track your food waste (including how much it’s costing you) and get reminders for what you need to use up with the Kitche app.
- Share surplus food: Life is a gift Facebook group, Too good to go, Olio
- Shops offering refills and environmentally friendly products
- Stock cupboard refills delivered to your door in Cambridge by unpkd